Imagine your 87-year-old grandma is in a nursing home when she suddenly collapses and stops breathing.  You would expect the nurses around her to do anything and everything in their power to help your grandma breathe again, right?  Well wrong!

According to USA Today, 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless was not given CPR when she collapsed in her central California retirement community.  Instead of giving her CPR, the nurse assisting her called 911 and refused to give the old lady mouth to mouth resuscitation because her facility had a no-CPR policy.  This is how part of the call between the nurse and the dispatcher ensued:

  • Nurse tells dispatcher that it is against the facility's policy for staff to give CPR.
  • Dispatcher: "It's a human being.”
  • Dispatcher: "Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"
  • Nurse: "Um, not at this time.”

Unfortunately, Bayless died later that day.  I agree with Robyn Grant, director of public relations and advocacy for The National Consumer Voice for Quality Longterm Care, that this is an “incredible tragedy."

According to Grant, "consumers have to be extremely vigilant when selecting independent living and assisted living care.''  There are contracts that need to be signed before moving in and the terms in these contracts could be “killer.”  The contract between Bayless and the independent living community apparently informed Bayless “of the no-CPR policy” which Bayless agreed to when she moved in.  I wonder how many people overlooked the “no-CPR policy” when signing this contract.  According to Grant, "it's really hard when you're looking for care and reading these contracts to understand every word.”  He suggests “people take them to an attorney to understand the responsibilities of the facilities."  I agree.

Bayless did not have a "do not resuscitate" order on file.  This means that the nurse should have legally resuscitated her but did not because of the facilities no-CPR policy.

What is a “DNR”?

A "DNR" is a legal order to respect the wishes of a patient to not undergo CPR if they stop breathing.  The DNR request is made by the patient or health care power of attorney.

Is a DNR similar to a Living Will?

Living wills are documents written by individuals themselves, in which they make decisions about life sustaining procedures in the event that their death from a terminal condition is imminent despite the application of life sustaining procedures or they are in a persistent vegetative state (permanent unconsciousness).

A DNR, on the other hand, is written by a physician or hospital staff member based upon the wishes previously expressed by the individual in his or her living will.

Do you agree with the facilities no-CPR policy?